Beijing blasts US over S. China Sea issue

Updated 11 April 2015

Beijing blasts US over S. China Sea issue

BEIJING: Beijing hit back Friday at US President Barack Obama’s criticism of Chinese construction in the disputed South China Sea, arguing that it is Washington that has greater military “muscle.”
It said it only seeks peace in the region, rejecting Obama’s comments that Beijing is using its muscle to intimidate neighbors in a region where US officials say China also is aggressively creating artificial land to bolster its position.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s retort came a day after Obama warned that Beijing was “using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” amid reports of controversial Chinese land reclamation efforts.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China advocated talks to resolve tensions between rival claimants to the strategic waters and island groups that sit astride some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potentially huge mineral reserves.
“I think you will agree with me that China has been a robust force for the preservation and promotion of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Hua said.
Obama said Thursday that the US is concerned that China is not abiding by international norms and is using its “sheer size and muscle” to bully smaller claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam.
“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” Obama told reporters while on a visit to Jamaica. Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also claim all or parts of the South China Sea.
In an apparent reference to the US, Hua said: “I think everybody can clearly see who has the biggest size and muscle in the world.” She added that, “We hope the US can ... genuinely play a positive, constructive and responsible role in promoting peace and stability in the South China Sea and the region.”
The US has increasingly expressed concern about continuing Chinese construction that artificially adds land to the reefs and islands it controls in the region, projects documented by aerial photos and eyewitness accounts. US military officials have said they could be aimed at hosting military facilities as part of an “aggressive” effort to exert sovereignty there.
Hua said Thursday that such work was mainly for peaceful civilian purposes such as aiding fishermen, but also served to “meet necessary demands” for defense. She also reiterated China’s stance that its sovereignty over the area gives it the right to carry out whatever work it deems worthy, but that such activities are not directed at any third parties.
China says it wants a code of conduct between the parties to avoid conflicts in the South China Sea, but says the US and other countries without direct claims in the region should stay on the sidelines.
While the US says it takes no position on sovereignty issues, its mutual-defense treaty with the Philippines could draw it into a confrontation with China in the event of a military crisis.
“The US leader talked about China’s ‘sheer size and muscle,’ but one can also see clearly who has the biggest size and muscle in the world,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing.
She called on Washington to “genuinely make efforts to safeguard peace and stability” in the region.
Beijing asserts sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including areas near the coasts of other states, using a line that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all have overlapping claims.
Newly-released satellite images on the website of the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank show a flotilla of Chinese vessels dredging sand onto a feature known as Mischief Reef.
Before-and-after images of other outcrops in the Spratly Islands show aircraft runways appearing from jungle, smooth-sided solid masses where there once was coral and man-made harbors replacing natural reefs.
Analysts say the pictures show how China is attempting to create “facts in the water” to bolster its territorial claim.
Manila, among the most vocal critics of Beijing’s actions in the region, on Friday appealed to the international community to intervene conceding it and other countries were powerless to stop China’s construction of the artificial islands.
“We are asking the international community to tell China that what it is doing is wrong, and to ask China to stop this reclamation work,” Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose told AFP.


Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong arrested for 2019 ‘unlawful assembly’

Updated 24 September 2020

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong arrested for 2019 ‘unlawful assembly’

  • The 23-year-old pro-democracy figure said on Twitter he was being held for violating the “draconian anti-mask law”
HONG KONG: Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was arrested on Thursday in relation to a protest at the height of the city’s pro-democracy unrest last year, his lawyer said.
The detention of the city’s most high-profile dissident is the latest in a string of arrests of government critics and comes after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong in late June.
He was arrested for “unlawful assembly” over a 2019 demonstration against a government ban on face masks that was imposed before the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyer said.
The 23-year-old pro-democracy figure said on Twitter he was also being held for violating the “draconian anti-mask law,” which has since been ruled unconstitutional.
Wong’s lawyer told AFP he was arrested when he reported to a police station concerning another case against him, for which he is currently on trial.
“Wong is accused of participating in an unlawful assembly on October 5 last year, when hundreds marched to oppose an anti-mask ban the government rolled out,” lawyer Jonathan Man said.
The march that day came after much of the city had ground to a halt with the subway suspended and many shops and malls shuttered following a night of violence.
Hundreds of protesters, almost all masked, staged the unsanctioned demonstration through the popular shopping district of Causeway Bay, a day after the city’s leader Carrie Lam outlawed masks by invoking colonial-era emergency powers not used for half a century.
The act of resistance came after a night of widespread chaos as hardcore protesters trashed dozens of subway stations, vandalized shops with mainland China ties, built fires and blocked roads. Many chanted “No rioters, only tyranny” and other popular protest slogans.
At the time of the march, Hong Kong had already been battered by four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests.